Theme of the conference

Centre for Tribal Folklore, Language and Literature, Central University of Jharkhand is planning to host the 5th Endangered and Lesser-known Languages Conference (ELKL - 5) from 24-26 February, 2017. This year's special theme will be ‘Language Documentation, Policy and Planning and cross-disciplinary approaches for Endangered and Lesser-known Languages'. In addition to this, this conference, like its previous installments, will be aimed at sharing the research done in the field of language endangerment and different aspects of description, documentation and revitalisation of any other lesser-known and/or endangered language of India.
It is an admitted fact that a large number of the world's languages have diminishing number of speakers and they are on the brink of falling silent. It is a terrifying situation considering the fact that loss of languages will not only make the world a more homogeneous and boring place but also a more vulnerable place with our survival itself at stake. This may sound like an overstatement to the whole lot of uninitiated beings on our planet but it is not. UNESCO correctly puts that ‘It is estimated that, if nothing is done, half of 6000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of this century. With the disappearance of unwritten and undocumented languages, humanity would lose not only a cultural wealth but also important ancestral knowledge embedded, in particular, in indigenous languages.’
While the knowledge contained in the language is one of the most compelling and oft-quoted reasons to "save" the diversity, it is not the only reason to do it. Since long it has been argued that languages are one of the most explicit and easier ways of understanding human brain and human beings itself. Each language is capable of giving unique and exciting insights into the complex and amazing ways human brain functions. Losing a language would entail losing those brilliant insights into one of the most complex creations of Nature.
In addition to this, language also gives a dignity, an identity to the human life itself. Without one's own language to claim and fall back on, a major part of anybody's identity is lost.
The policies, planning and language ideologies are instilled with a powerful symbolism that is often linked to questions of identity, with the suppression or failure to recognise and support a given endangered variety and the voices and communities from the margins. 
This conference hopes to ignite discussions and debates as to how and whether the interfaces among policy, planning, scripts and language documentation can affect the fortunes of endangered varieties.
One of the ways to empower the endangered and lesser-known language is to have appropriate policy and planning for these languages. 
Evaluation of the potential and actual impact of language policy on endangered languages is complicated by lack of straightforward causal connections between types of policy and language maintenance and shift, as well as by confusion of policy and planning. Language policy is not an autonomous factor and what appears to be ostensibly the ‘same’ policy may lead to different outcomes, depending on the situation in which it operates. Weak linkages between policy and planning render many policies ineffective. Conventions and treaties adopted by international organizations and agencies recommending the use of minority languages in education usually lack power to reinforce them. Furthermore, policies have negligible impact on home use, which is essential for continued natural transmission of endangered languages. Although survival cannot depend on legislation as its main support, legal provisions may allow speakers of endangered languages to claim some public space for their languages and cultures.

The special theme of the conference aims to address these aspects of approaching the endangered and lesser-known languages of India and to have brain storming session on various allied themes.

Papers discussing original and unpublished research related to, but not limited to, the following sub-themes under the special theme are solicited. Submissions on lesser-known varieties of Hindi is especially encouraged.

Like previous editions of the conference, original and unpublished papers are also solicited in the other areas of research in endangered and lesser-known languages. Which include, but not limited to, the following. Submissions on one of these aspects of lesser-known varieties of Hindi is especially encouraged.

  • Description of Indian endangered and lesser-known languages - phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics
  • Typological, Areal and Historical Descriptions
  • Language Documentation
  • Folklore and Oral Tardition
  • Dictionaries of Indian endangered languages
  • Language Archiving - best practices and methods
  • Multilingualism, language shift, language maintenance and language death
  • Language attitude and Language Revitalization
  • Language policy, language planning and language endangerment
  • Field reports
  • Linguistic Human-Rights
  • Language and Education
  • Ethical, legal and practical issues in language documentation of endangered and lesser-known languages in India and their solution
  • Biocultural and Linguistic Diversity of India
  • Media and language endangerment
  • Endangered Languages and Cultures in Jharkhand: The Road Ahead
  • Scripts and Cognitive Sciences

Participants and Merits of the Program

Total Number of participants = 150 (approx.)
The conference will draw a large number of researchers and students from across the world who will participate in the conference as well as pre-conference tutorials. It will provide an interdisciplinary platform for discussing their research with each other as well as forge collaborations at different levels in order to expedite the work related to the endangered and lesser-known languages.

Benefits of the Program

The conference will provide a platform for discussing the research related to the field of language endangerment with some of the best experts from across the world. In addition to this, the conference will also include tutorials by some of the best and most experienced experts in different aspects of the language documentation and description. It will include tutorials by such experts as Prof. Peter Austin from SOAS, Prof. P.K.S Pandey, Chairperson Centre for Linguistics, JNU, Prof. John Michael Peterson, Chair, Language Sciences, Kiel University, Germany, and several others.  This event apart from many fruitful discussion can yield us a chance to have associations in the other of MoUs with these world-class institutes and thus taking forward the vision of our Honorable Vice Chancellor Prof. Nanad Kuamr Yadav. The major highlights of the programme include

  • Discussion on State-of-the-art in Language Endangerment and documentation and ways to improve it.
  • The policies and planning vis-à-vis endangered languages and lesser-known languages
  • Significance of developing scripts for such languages
  • Hands-on training on different aspects of language documentation and related software.

Importance of the program

According to the UNESCO report on the state of endangered languages across the world, India has the highest number of endangered languages of various categories – 196. Although subsequent to the publication of this report, some serious issues with the methodology and the final number have been raised, the fact that a lot of Indian languages (at least half the number quoted by the report) are indeed in danger and in need of immediate attention. These languages are disappearing at an alarming rate and unless they are documented and/or revitalised very soon, most of them will perish in near future. The conference aims to bring this issue to the centre of the discussion and find ways to do it effectively and efficiently. It makes it more important to organize such conferences here because of the fact that state of Jharkhand, which is adorned by different indigenous groups speaking 22 languages coming from three different language families. This state of India grapples with the threat of language endangerment and thus slowly moving towards the loss of its valuable linguistic, cultural, ethnographic mosaic.
The conference aims to address the following issues

    • Current status of language endangerment and the efforts to stop it
    • Efforts to document the languages and challenges faced in it
    • Language technology as a means of combating endangerment and speeding up language revitalisation
    • Description of endangered languages
    • Resources and technology development for endangered and lesser-known languages.